Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Turns 50 – Our Recollections Of The Iconic LP & The Wembley ’74 Full-LP Performance Gets It’s Stand-Alone Release


“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way…” – Pink Floyd, “Time”

I saw that Pink Floyd’s iconic album Dark Side Of The Moon turned 50 years old this month. That is, on many levels, astounding to me. I first started really listening to rock n roll in 1978 and the album, while only 5 years old at that point, already seemed like it had been around forever, like it was part of the air we breathed and the earth we walked upon. The band didn’t release much new for the “50th Anniversary.” They released pretty much everything they had in the 2011 Dark Side “Immersion Set” which was a box set so vast I can’t believe it had any mass appeal. However, there was a live performance of the entire Dark Side album in that 2011 box from Empire Pool, Wembley from 1974 which has now been released as separate album to celebrate the big 5-0. There isn’t much listenable live Pink Floyd out there other than Ummagumma (which is a “hybrid” album, half live/half studio) from the classic line up: David Gilmour (guitar/vocals), Roger Waters (bass/vocals), Rick Wright (keyboards/vocals), and Nick Mason (drums) so I guess being able to buy this live performance outside the massive box set is something. Of course it’s been heavily bootlegged for years as well, but that’s another story.

I remember the first time I heard Dark Side, or at least more than just the song “Money,” which was a staple on our local rock radio. I was in science class in junior high. For some reason our teacher, Mr. Hurtz (name changed to protect the innocent) would let us listen to music in class. I think this was more towards the end of the school year when he was just trying to hold his breath and make it to summer so he didn’t have to be around teenagers for three months. We were a precocious group of miscreants, er I mean students. Anyway, this guy from my neighborhood Micky (named changed to protect the guilty) had a portable 8-track player that he’d brought to school – who needed an iPod? – shaped like a detonator…try to get that past school security these days. The 8-track player was called “The Dynamite 8.” He’s playing Dark Side, but like all 8-tracks you could skip around the tape and he kept hitting the “plunger” on the top of the 8-track player to skip ahead. He’d apparently sat around his bedroom stoned and memorized the album and was in the habit of skipping to his favorite parts. I hated 8-tracks as they never gave you a real feel for the record. I remember this guy Dave, in class, asking if I thought the woman (Clare Torry) who sang on “The Great Gig In The Sky” was in the band? I don’t know why a woman in the band was astounding? Had he never heard of Fleetwood Mac? Dave too was a big fan of the hookah… Say what you want about the stoners – they were thought of derisively back in those days – but they were thinkers. Their minds had been “freed.”

As a young junior high school student with little beyond allowance in terms of cash it was hard to start a record collection. You had to buy “the right” albums. My father famously asked me why I needed more than one or two albums… like he didn’t realize each album had different music on it? Anyway, at the time (the late 70s), there were no bigger bands than Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The majority of the black light posters hanging in junior high and high school bedrooms were those two bands. Sure the Stones were still big but Zeppelin and Floyd were the coolest!! Ergo, Dark Side Of The Moon was one of the first albums I ever bought. I’d only heard “Money” and snippets from Micky’s stoned 8-track but that was enough to whet my appetite. Buying the album for my collection felt, well, foundational. Like Dark Side was just one of those must have albums that every “serious” collector of rock n roll had to own. I have to say though, as a 13 year old, it took me a little bit to  warm to this album. Don’t get me wrong, the music was fabulous, hypnotic even, but the lyrics and themes… heavy.

Waters conceived the album as a “concept album” about all the things in the world that can make you go insane. I think the album has even deeper themes beyond mental illness that include stress, isolation, travel, greed, death and war. Waters included Rick Wright’s fear of travel in “On The Run,” and it was Wright who wrote about death on “The Great Gig In The Sky.” Waters wrote more directly about mental illness on the songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” which were inspired by founder Syd Barrett (vocals/guitar/songwriting) the genius who’d gone mad on acid and left the band pretty much after the first album. I read a review of Pink Floyd, many moons ago, and the guy said that Pink Floyd were at their best when they wrote songs about former band members. That’s certainly true of this album… and Waters has always said Wish You Were Here (my favorite Floyd album) was written to the other guys in the band who weren’t present after all the success Dark Side brought… but that album feels like it’s more about Syd (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”) and the music business in general (“Welcome To the Machine”). The Wall, Pink Floyd’s magnum opus double-album, was basically a blending of Waters and Barrett’s life stories. Even the Waters-less Division Bell has a few really good songs where Gilmour complains about Waters… Some people you just don’t get over in life.

Anyway, the dark themes that Dark Side addressed were tough for me as a 13 year old to digest. I quickly moved on to Wish You Were Here. Eventually though, as I matured and understood the subject matter a little better, I returned to Dark Side and realized what a masterpiece it truly is. Recorded when the band still got along… According to Wikipedia, the album was on the Billboard charts for 976 weeks and sold an amazing 14 million copies in the U.S. alone. It’s the 4th best selling album of all time. As I somehow knew, inherently when I bought this record, one of the first ten LPs I purchased, it really is a foundational album for any collector. If you’re fan of rock, you own or better said, must own Dark Side. The song “Time” is such a momentous statement. The line I quoted above, “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day…” has meaning to everyone who has longed for more in their life, or to do more with their lives. When people speak of the “greatest rock n roll of all time” this album is among the music they’re talking about. Trippy, cerebral, intelligent rock n roll. And don’t get me started on the whole Wizard of Oz synch thing… probably discovered by the aforementioned stoners…

Oddly, I had never heard the live performance of the album from 1974’s Wembley concert. I’d have thought I’d come across the bootleg somewhere along the line, but no. Pink Floyd albums, for the most part, are better played in their entirety as a suite of songs. I still wonder how they’re able to put out a “greatest hits” package as each song on each album is crafted to blend to the next and so on. Performing an entire album from start to finish is a tough thing to do. I unfortunately saw Boston play Third Stage in its entirety, in the album’s running order, and it was the only concert to date that I dosed off dmid-show. However, the way Pink Floyd structures their albums makes it work much better. And well, the material on Dark Side, beyond being just better music is better heard played together as a whole. But make no mistake, this is far more than a “recital” like it’s classical music. Gilmour’s voice is more raspy and fierce in the live performance. His guitar is all over this thing, as it should be. He jams a little bit at the end of a couple of tracks like “Money” or “Any Colour You Like.” Clare Torry reprises her role on “The Great Gig In The Sky.” And no Dave, she wasn’t “in” the band. I think any Floyd fans, or fans of Dark Side, can and will certainly enjoy this live album:

I urge each of you Floyd fans out there to check out this live disc. And please, don’t “fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way…” Pick up a hobby, call a friend, have a drink with your spouse or better yet listen to an album you haven’t heard in a while… it’ll make you feel great again! Time is precious and life is fleeting – I learned this lesson again recently when a good friend passed – enjoy every moment. Or better yet, as Warren Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” And if you’re struggling with any form of mental health from anxiety to depression, please reach out for help. Nobody should struggle in the isolation and despair that this album describes. Pour something strong and turn this live Pink Floyd from 1974, a galaxy far, far away, up as loud as it can go.

Cheers! Take care of each other out there.


6 thoughts on “Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Turns 50 – Our Recollections Of The Iconic LP & The Wembley ’74 Full-LP Performance Gets It’s Stand-Alone Release

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